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Volume 35, Number 2 (2010)

The Slave Narrative Tradition in Lawrence Hill’sThe Book of Negroes

January 31, 2011


Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes (2007) is an important revisionist work that simultaneously adheres to and undermines the slave narrative genre. Hill infuses the novel with an historical and generic intelligence that allows him to generally maintain the slave narrative story-form while undercutting those thematic features that have created racial mythologies, presenting a genuine fiction that “writes back” to the textual history of the slave narrative. For example, Hill’s narrator, Aminata Diallo, writes her memoir in the company of campaigning abolitionists who pressure her to make her story conform to both the pre-existing model and their manumission campaign. She complains of interference and chooses to set down her narrative independent of their leadership. Hill therefore circumvents the abolitionists’ partial censorship and simultaneously draws attention to it.